My Mentor: John Stapleton on Bill Grundy

'He sort of adopted me because he wanted someone to drink with'
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The Independent Online

"Bill Grundy became infamous because he did a notorious television interview with The Sex Pistols in which they used the F-word. In those days using the F-word on TV was headline news, and it led to Bill effectively getting the sack.

"Bill Grundy became infamous because he did a notorious television interview with The Sex Pistols in which they used the F-word. In those days using the F-word on TV was headline news, and it led to Bill effectively getting the sack.

He was a presenter of Thames Television's Today programme in the Seventies. I greatly admired his style: he would go into interviews with only one question in his head. He was seen by some as a rough diamond but in fact he was a hugely intelligent man. I was writing the scripts on the programme and it was my first job in television. I desperately wanted to be an "in-vision" reporter. Bill, in his typically brusque northern style, said: "You'll never make it, chuck." Nevertheless, he took me under his wing and became, from a professional point of view, a father figure.

He was a wild man and a notorious drinker. His drinking sessions were legendary and he sort of adopted me because I was single at the time and he wanted someone to drink with.

I got my chance on screen in 1972 after volunteering myself for all the jobs that no one else wanted to do. They eventually gave in and let me do it full-time.

The big moment came when there was a live election programme for about two hours. I'd never done anything like it before and I was petrified. They were looking to me for analysis and I had to clue up on every damn constituency in London. Bill could have made me look completely stupid but he just looked after me. It was such a watershed in my career that I was forever grateful.

I'd moved on to the BBC by the time of The Sex Pistols interview in 1976 but I was very sad to see it end the way it did. It certainly wouldn't have happened today. He might be surprised to read this if he were still alive but underneath the gruff, boozy exterior there was a warm and compassionate guy."

John Stapleton is presenter of GMTV's News Hour

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